Our Staff

Beth Porter, Executive Director

Beth joined Giant Steps in the summer of 2011.  She brings 25 years of nonprofit administration and leadership to Giant Steps, and has worked with a variety of organizations including arts, education, and political action programs.  Through her career she has developed skills in fundraising, program design and management, strategic planning, board development, and staff coaching.  Beth has her B.A. in Sociology and Japanese from Middlebury College and her M.A. in Asia Pacific Studies from the University of San Francisco. When she is not at Giant Steps, she is kept busy by her two- and four-footed children.

Jen McWherter, Head Instructor

Jen has been involved in therapeutic riding for over 15 years.  She grew up riding bareback in Australia, and after moving to Birmingham, AL she started volunteering with Special Equestrians, Inc.  She became volunteer coordinator for Special Equestrians, and in 2006 became a certified riding instructor.  Jen and her family relocated to California in 2011 and she sought out a place to continue her therapeutic riding career.  Luckily she found Giant Steps and started volunteering and teaching here soon after her arrival in Sonoma County.

Julie Larson, Program Director

Julie Larson, a PATH International Certified Registered Instructor, started volunteering at Giant Steps in Fall 2009.  She graduated from the University of Michigan with a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology and served as a veterinarian’s assistant for three years. She loves working with children and youth of all ages and has a six year old son named Henry. She enjoys trail riding with her two quarter horses Nikawa and Stanley and loves all animals.  Julie loves the outdoors, especially going to the beach or the mountains with her son and her dog, Daisy. Julie is also serving as the Regional Representative  for the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship. You can reach her via email HERE or call her a the riding center.

Kelly Kinion Lombardi, Volunteer Coordinator
Kelly always loved horses, and took both English and Western Show Riding lessons in her youth.  She owned a cutting horse in high school, along with steers, pigs, chickens, dogs, and rabbits.  Kelly attended Sonoma State University, and volunteered at the Adult Developmental Center and Interact Club.  She then graduated from the SF Academy of Art with a BA in Fine Art/Illustration.  She spent 30 years in graphics at printers and with assorted newspapers – the Petaluma Argus-Courier, the Novato Advance, and the Press Democrat.  Her career has also included stints working at Yosemite National Park as well as working as a seamstress and an artist.  She began volunteering at Giant Steps in 2009, working on accreditation committee, trained to be an Instructor, and was hired as Volunteer Coordinator March 2011. Kelly can be reached via email HERE, or you can call her at the riding center.

Tucker Ricioli, Office Manager
Tucker has a BA in psychology and joined the team after working for five years as the Course Manager for a leadership development institute.  The position at Giant Steps seems to be a perfect blend of her past in-office skills & experiences, and her love of working with people and horses.  She feels particularly drawn to equine therapy, after having worked at a similar therapeutic vaulting organization in the Los Angeles area throughout high school and college.  Tucker feels privileged to return to such an environment – the determination and joy of the students, the generosity of the volunteers, the dedication of the staff, and the gentle patience of the horses.  “There is just something special about the bond between humans and horses!” Tucker deals with all rider payments, scholarship applications, office volunteers, and accounts payable. If you have any questions for Tucker, reach her via email HERE, or call her at the office at extension 10.

Cynthia Bartel, Bookkeeper
Cynthia brings 30 years of bookkeeping experience with both businesses and non-profit organizations.  For the past nine years, Cynthia has worked as an independent contractor for a variety of North Bay businesses. When Cynthia is not working, she enjoys gardening, cooking, and playing with her spunky little dog.  Three more fun facts about Cynthia: she is a native Californian, she was a competitive softball player, and she has one son, who works at Yelp.  Cynthia works in our administrative office on Wednesdays. You can reach her via email HERE, or call her at the office.